For two couples living together under one roof in a suburb of Dallas, community living is one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. Chandler, 30, had known Jonah, 33, for years before pitching him the idea of building a house together to save money and generate ROI, but it took a little convincing—and one epic PowerPoint presentation—to get their wives on board with the plan.
“When Chandler presented this idea, I was against it at first, because I’ve lived by myself for so long,” recalls his wife Tania, 32. “We then discussed it and it just made financial sense.”
Having both been homeowners before, Tania and Chandler were previously paying around $2,000 per month for a much smaller home. But with the new plan, they’d be spending around $1,500 per couple per month for a brand new, custom-built home. The idea was that they’d be able to recoup the costs and hopefully turn a profit when they sell the place in five years.
After looking at countless floor plans together, the couples built a home in Farmers Branch, Texas, together for $525,000. The 3,400-square-foot house has five bedrooms—including two main suites—and four bathrooms.
They applied for a loan together, divided up the down payment, and now split the mortgage evenly between the four of them. Along with sharing the mortgage, they also share a kitchen, a dining room, a downstairs living room, a garage, outdoor space, and a laundry room. When they sell, as is the plan in five years, they plan to split the equity evenly.
“Dallas is super pricey, especially the suburbs that are near downtown, so we are saving a ton,” says Jonah, who has been married to Joy, 34, for more than five years. He explains that if he’d been looking for a house of his own with Joy, they’d probably budget around $300,000 for it.
“You really can’t find anything for $300,000 around here that is not a fixer upper,” Jonah says. If we would have bought [an existing house] at $300,000, we would get a home with zero warranty, and would probably have to pour $25,000 into it to renovate. Even then, it would still be nowhere near the quality of this home, and this way we can split our expensive property taxes, too. I could see this not being as equitable in many places in the U.S., but here in Dallas, and many big cities, it for sure is.”
The housemates have been able to enjoy using their roughly $1,200 a month in savings for other expenses. In Chandler and Tania’s case, that meant paying for their wedding. Like Chandler and Tania’s marriage, the arrangement is still somewhat new—the two couples first moved in on April 15, 2020—but, so far, they say everything has been totally positive, despite the pandemic.
“Community living is healthy,” Tania says. “I think for Chandler’s and my relationship, it’s been nice to live with another couple that has been married longer. We learn from them and value their friendship and company.”
Looking to save money by moving into a house with friends? Here are some of the lessons these couples have learned along the way.
- Get it in writing. “Before we moved in, we made a contract. We consider this an investment opportunity, so we all want to make sure we are taking care of the home. We see this as a five-year financial opportunity, meaning we agreed we’d do shared living for five years, as we think we can get the adequate ROI at the end of five years. Another item we discussed and put in the contract is children. Chandler and I don’t want kids of our own so one of the important points for us was to put that in writing in the contract to ensure we are not living with a child in the next five years.” —Tania
- Set and understand expectations. “Decide what is important and what are the deal breakers. Shared living is not for everyone, and we were lucky Joy and Jonah were up for it as, not only are they trustworthy, but they also want similar things from life. Finding another couple that is open to the idea, is invested in making it work, and has similar future plans (at least for the next couple of years) is key.”—Tania
- Don’t live with your best friends. “I think that almost sounds backhanded, but it isn’t. We have a mutual trust and respect with Chandler and Tania, but we also don’t spend every night with them or every weekend. It makes the times we do spend together more fun.” —Joy
- Expect extra time for the loan to get approved. “The process was easier than we thought—just two men on the mortgage who are not married to each other—but it did take a lot of time… but that was more because many people were applying during this time as rates were low.” —Jonah
- “Joy and I are on the deed, so we are included in some way, but we just had to show up and sign the paperwork when we closed.” —Tania
- Install two fridges if you can. “The kitchen is so big that we haven’t had any problems with space or anything, and I doubt we will. Having two fridges helps as well.” —Jonah
- Be flexible and open to compromise. “Everyone has an opinion. Sometimes we have had to take a vote and the most votes win, especially when it comes to decor. For the cabinets, the girls wanted lighter colors and the men wanted darker colors. Eventually we opted for a lighter grey, as we felt it satisfied both the grey the men wanted and the white the women wanted.” —Tania
- Create clear penalties. “Along with the rules, equity is lost if someone breaks any part of the contract (like having kids), and, the sooner it happens in the five years, the more equity is lost.”—Tania
- Give each other space. “We don’t do meals together every night. Usually Chandler and I cook dinner before Joy and Jonah, and we try to clean up so they don’t have to do so when they cook for themselves. Sometimes our schedules align, and we have dinner together and that’s nice to do every now and then.”—Tania
- Honor your word. “We said we will keep the cats upstairs, and we do everything to ensure that happens.”—Joy
- Clean up after yourselves. “We have a 24-hour time frame for leaving dishes in the sink. However, we also understand that life gets in the way and sometimes you’re just exhausted. It’s important to be willing to help even when it’s not your trash, not your dish, etc. These little things build trust and rapport, and cost little to no extra effort.” —Joy
- Celebrate when you can. “Having friends you live with in a global pandemic is a definite bonus, and celebrating is important. We’ve only lived together for six months but have already celebrated quite a few things altogether.”—Joy
- Always have ice cream in the freezer. — The housemates